Ukraine’s new Constitution: no federalization, no language statutes

ukr_Petr_poroshenko_hihiUkrainian President Petr Poroshenko presented his draft of the new Constitution of Ukraine. He urged deputies to support the project of the Constitution overhaul, because the authorities need something with which they can go into negotiations with the South East.

The draft does not mention federalization and official state status for the Russian language, which is required by the protesters in the Donbass region. As a bait for South East Poroshenko uses so-called “decentralization” rhetoric and the right for local councils to introduce a special status for the Russian language.

“Ukraine was, is and will be a unitary power … It’s the thought of the absolute majority of citizens … There are no discussions and there will be none on the public status of the Russian language,” – Poroshenko said, stressing that recently the number of supporters of the multi-lingual state significantly increased.

However, even such a weak document was categorically not supported by the president’s ruling coalition and sparked protests from allies of Poroshenko in parliament. “First you need to defeat the enemy, then change the Constitution. Any negotiations will lead to the defeat of Ukraine. We would only stagnate the situation in Donbass,”- protested Oleg Lyashko.

Raising the status of the Russian language even at the local level did not suit the head of “Freedom” party Oleg Tyagnibok. He also said that Poroshenko neglected to include provisions for revoking immunity of deputies, the president and judges, and there is no prohibition of communist ideology.

The party “Fatherland” voiced their grievances too. They saw that, despite promises, Poroshenko reserved a significant increase in management roles for his own “siloviki” – he single-handedly would be able to appoint the Prosecutor General, the Heads of State Security Service, National Bank, Foreign Intelligence, Anti-Monopoly Committee.

As a result, the discussion of the draft Constitution was placed on the agenda, but “Freedom” and “Fatherland” promised to prepare their alternative designs of the new Basic Law. The chances of Poroshenko’s proposal being accepted are now slight and we are likely to see a far more nationalistic proposal surface.

In the current situation, the effect of a constitutional reform on achieving peace is questionable. Opponents of the Kiev authorities in the Donbass region have long gone beyond the federalization (which initially was demanded at rallies) in their demands and now seek independence of the region, as well as its international recognition. The war in the area continues, the number of victims grows every day. While the region remains a war zone, and administrative buildings of Lugansk and Donetsk are held by the breakaway republics, to talk about the implementation of a decentralization reform by Kiev is really premature.


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